July 18, 2012

A Test in Preparedness

We've had a number of things happen recently, that have had a rather major impact on us. The as yet unresolved computer problem is one to be sure, but something else has happened which has been even worse.

One of our dreams is to pay off our mortgage. It's our only debt and we would love to be debt free. Currently we are able to pay down on the principal, but the realities of Dan's job make this a slow process. The tradeoff, is having time at home to do things that need to be done, like putting up fences and overhauling the kitchen. We've talked, from time to time, about his going really "over the road," as in long haul driving where he'd be out three weeks at a time, and home for about three days. This is not our preferred lifestyle, but we've wondered if it would be worth it for a couple of years, to own our place free and clear.

One day on a whim, he applied to a flatbed and heavy haul trucking company based in Fort Worth, Texas. It would mean little home time, but it would also double his salary. If we were willing to make sacrifices, we truly had the potential to get our mortgage payed off, hopefully within two or so years.

They hired him within days and flew him to Ft. Worth for orientation. He was on the road in a week. His second week out he had severe pain in his leg and ankle. He could neither walk nor shift the big truck gears. The home office insisted he go to the emergency room, but stipulated he had to sign a form taking full responsibility to pay for it. Well, Dan didn't want to go to the emergency room. They insisted and he finally agreed to do it, but would only sign the form if he added "as required by my employer." They didn't want him to do that, so it got turned over to workers comp.

Since he was out on the road and couldn't drive, it took them a day or two to get him back to the home office. He was immediately called in to see the big boss, and let go. He was told he was rude to a few folks (who weren't available to corroborate) and that he wasn't a good fit for the company.

That was shocking enough, but the more immediate problem was that they fired him 1000 miles away from home. It wasn't just getting Dan home, but also all his gear. An over the road driver's tractor is his "home away from home." Truck stop prices are exorbitantly high, so most truckers have a plug in cooler or fridge, 12 volt cooker, food, supplies, bedding, clothes, tool box, first aid kit, etc to last their trip out. Though the company made a verbal offer to reimburse Dan for getting home, we were still faced with paying for it upfront. Paying for that left us with just enough money in the bank for upcoming bills, and that was it.

In addition, they stopped payment on his first paycheck, to revoke his sign-on bonus and orientation pay. Legally they can do this with a 90 day probationary status for new drivers. Between that and the $1000 it cost him to get home (which is still not reimbursed and we doubt will ever be) he netted $500 for three weeks of work. The good news was that his old company agreed to hire him back. The bad news is that it took two weeks to get through the hiring paperwork, plus it will be another two weeks before the first paycheck will arrive.

And that brings us to the topic at hand, preparedness. While we've never claimed to be preppers, doomers, or survivalists, we do realize that emergencies happen. These can be weather related, or as in our case, job related. It is common sense to be prepared for them. This situation really put our personal preparedness to the test.

Food. Thankfully, this is not a problem. We have growing garden, fresh eggs and milk, a front porch full of wheat needing to be threshed, a pantry full of canned goods, and a freezer full of homegrown chicken, chevon, fruits, and vegetables. We may have to make a few adjustments in our accustomed meals, but we can live without buying food.

Water. We're on city water and expect to not be late on any bills, so this is also not a worry. In the past we've had well water and kept water storage for when there was no electricity to power the electric pump.

Animals. I had just stocked up on feed, cat and dog food, so this wasn't an immediate worry. Plus being summer, there is plenty to graze and forage for the chickens and goats.

Bills. This is the biggest concern. After paying to get Dan home I still had enough to pay the upcoming bills, but I can see how I could have been better prepared in this area. The late Larry Burkett recommended keeping a 3 month reserve savings to cover bills and living expenses in such emergencies. I kept it at about a month's reserve for bills, using any extra to pay down on the principal of our mortgage. That meant we've been able to pay it down by $11,000 over three years (I never dreamed it was so much until now. Every little bit truly adds up!) This is our only debt, and I found myself wishing I'd kept the payments an extra month ahead, like I did when I used to have a car payment. Yes, I paid an extra month's interest, but also, I could skip a month if need be and still not be late on the next payment due.

The other thing I've learned is that life is considerably simpler when one doesn't have any money. There are no worries about spending our money wisely because there isn't any to spend, LOL.

I have to say that I'm thankful it wasn't worse. I'm thankful we had the funds to get Dan home. Still, it's made us evaluate our lives in a more urgent light. We've wondered from time to time how little we could actually live on, and this brings that question closer to home. While we realize that self-sufficiency in the strictest sense is not possible, we're able to appreciate how far we've come, and realize how far we have to go.

38 comments:

RiverBend Farm said...

Leigh, your post is so intriguing. I sat glued to the end. So sorry that ya'll had to endure all that with the road job but glad he'll be home with family. You're right about not having any money and making life so simple. I admire you for being as self-sufficient as you are. You are far ahead of most folks.

Michelle said...

What a stressful time you've had! Was Dan's pain ever diagnosed or relieved?

janzi said...

WEll, like the others I share my admiration for you all in getting through this latest adventure.. you are two very tough people, and I am glad he is back with you.. did you find out what was wrong with your darling after all? I hope now that life is a lot smoother for you and that luck will be calling soon... hugs from across the pond,.J

dindin said...

If he truly wants to work as a trucker there are PLENTY of jobs in south central texas where I live working for the oil and gas companies. Look on the eagle ford shale website and take your pick. Plus there are great cheap places to stay or share rooms when he needs to be in the area. Plus it's only about 4 hours from home when he's not driving

Susan said...

I am so tuned in to being prepared for natural disasters, that I didn't even consider financial disaster when reading your post headline. This is something in which I am very lacking. Thanks for the wake-up call. I do hope that Dan is back to 100% and am sorry about the lack of compassion shown to him by the TX company. I believe he was within his rights to refuse if he was expected to pay for the emergency room visit.

Renee Nefe said...

wow how scary. I guess that since Dan was able to work for his former employer that the medical issue was resolved? Hugs!

I'm so glad that you were able to get though this trial and hope that you are able to recover from it soon. Perhaps this was a learning experience..."no" on the long haul jobs and "yes" you're doing right on taking care of home.

Judy said...

Sorry, you and Dan had to experience this with a larger trucking company. There are quite a few of them out there that are like that. Some times that job that doesn't pay as well is actually better, stabler and less of a heartache in the long run,

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I, like another of your fans, was glued to this article to the very end. So glad Dan was able to get home plus I admire you so in your thinking and planning process. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet your mortgage payment will be history in a few years!

Sunnybrook Farm said...

Shame on him for being rude, funny how it is so important not to be rude but then they treat him like a piece of trash to get rid of. Wait a minute they were rude, how about that.
This was a good test for what could happen, so you passed the test and know what to look for now.

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

Leigh
Wow, I'm sorry to hear about Dan's new job, but glad his old job took him back. I hope he is feeling OK. BTW, I bought a new laptop in Dec and still have my old laptop. If you are interested, you could have it for free. It's pretty old, runs XP and have a tiny hard drive, but until Dec I usedd it every single day, without problems. I live in Athens, GA so it would be easy to get it to you. Also if there is anything elseat all that I could help you with, let me know.

Stephanie said...

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to Dan :( Is he feeling better? Praying it all works out in the end for you both. I know you will do fine!

Kari said...

I hope Dan is feeling better now and I'm glad he was able to go back to his old job. My DH went through something similar several years ago, which led to our becoming very aware of financial preparedness. Everything turned out fine in the end, but it was definitely a wakeup call.

Judging by how you handle everything else, I have a feeling you won't be caught unprepared again. :)

Kev Alviti said...

Sorry to here about the job. It amazes me about paying for a ER visit. We take our national health service for granted and lots of people slate it, but if somethings wrong with you, you dont have to think about how much it will cost to see a doctor. Shame that there's a price on a persons health over there. Hope you get that mortgage paid off soon.

Ngo Family Farm said...

So sorry to hear about the way Dan was treated! The issues you brought up are such important ones to think about, so thanks for sharing this life lesson with us. Hope you are both well.
-Jaime

Mama Pea said...

My heart is hurting for the agony you've both had to go through. Changing jobs (by itself!) ranks right up there near the top of the stress chart . . . and to have all the rest that happened to him added on top of that had to be awful. I am glad that he is at least not jobless now though. That would be really, really bad. I, too, would be interested in hearing how he's doing physically. Sometimes just stress can bring on real physical pain.

I know you will take all of this as a learning experience and come out better off in the end. I just wish it hadn't been such a hard thing for you to go through. Thanks for sharing with us. Hugs.

DebbieB said...

I am thankful that you've been sustained and provided for during this time of stress, Leigh. My prayers are with you and Dan as you recover from this temporary setback. There's a lot of wisdom in your words about preparedness.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Leigh, I'm so sorry to hear of these problems. Thankfully, Dan is back at work near home. You learned a valuable lesson in preparedness. Far too many people couldn't even last a month if the paychecks stopped.

nancy said...

I hope Dan feels better soon. It's good reminder how things can go bad, and doesn't sound wuite "legal" what they did to him. He might consider reporting them to that state's Labor Board. Might help the next guy, might not...

nancy said...

And I just posted financial tips on my blog, great minds think alike

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Leigh

In time, all things will right themselves. those who treated Dan poorly will indeed be treated poorly and those who deserve rewards, like yoursleves, will be rewarded. Keep up the good work. Enjoy and love one another. Never stop blogging and how about opening an on line store for some of your wonderful fiber creations?

Annnightflyer said...

Leigh hope Dan is alright.You know you'll be in my prayers girl, so sorry ya'll had to go thru that.if you need something let me know always here.

Jaclyn Hicks said...

I completely understand this one....this has been the story of this household for the past year. I hope and pray that your husband is alright. You are most definitely correct by saying that we should have a reserve for bills. I hope to be able to do this as well, very soon.

Take Care.

Leigh said...

I so much appreaciate everyone's encouraging words and prayers. The company did finally agree to pay for the ER visit, which we think had a lot to do with the real reasons they let him go.

The diagnosis was a sprain and the real irony was that after he got home, the pain disappeared! How could we not feel God's hand was mysteriously at work!

In addition, workers comp not only paid for the medical costs, but also wages for time off. It isn't a lot, but it will make up for the money we spent getting him home. In the end, we won't exactly be better off, but we won't be any worse for the experience either. I'm not going to complain about that!

He started work again last Saturday and is on his way to Pennsylvannia with a delivery. We're still eating well and finances will work out by the time the next bills are due. No small blessing to be sure.

Renee Nefe said...

I'm glad to hear the update and that all is well now.
Funny that they were insisting that Dan go to the ER but did not want to pay for it. :p Doesn't sound like the kind of company that you want to work for anyway.

Michelle said...

Oh Leigh, hallelujah and praise the Lord for the final outcome! So glad Dan is fine and the money will be replaced. Can't beat a valuable lesson learned -- free!

bspinner said...

I am so happy Dan is doing well. You are do lucky in so many ways especially when it comes down to your stores of food. We're lucky that we can drive to town and get our and put some fresh produce away for the winter. We are so happy when we finally paid off our house and one little acre. Now it's a matter of saving enough money to pay the taxes every year. Here in Pennsylvania they aren't cheap that's for sure.

Amanda said...

Leigh,

life is much more simplier when you don't have money. And folks would be amazed at what you can get by with when you don't.

I enjoyed every ounce of this post and gleaned so much.

thanks!

MaryContrary said...

I am not surprised at your experience with the trucking company. My father, one brother, former husband, and a nephew have all been truck drivers at one time or another. When it is good it can be very good; when it is bad it is very bad. The sprain sounds a bit like a repetitive stress injury. I agree with you about being financially prepared for emergencies. I wish I were better prepared. Like you I have about a month's reserve of cash. Last spring's dental work depleted about four months cash in a shorter time than it took to save it. Good luck and hope things get much better.

Thistle Rose Weaving said...

Leigh, both you and Dan are in my thoughts and prayers. I am glad the health issues are resolved, the money issues are on the mend and Dan is happy back at his old job. With the way things are these days please don't feel that you are alone in trying to keep finances going in tough times. Best wishes

Sue said...

I'm glad that everything worked out in the end, but what a pain. Glad that you are able to see the bright side of the experience.

I have learned how little I can get by on since I hurt may back 18 months ago. Had disability insurance, which helped for a while, but now I'm sliding by on very part time work and a prayer. The universe provides if you let it, but it's hard giving up the control sometimes. Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

This post really tugs at my heart, and my prayers are with you. --Sue in MA

My Journey With Candida said...

So sorry you have to go through this. I remember those years when times were tough. You sound like a very strong woman and I know you will get through this. Much luck to you.

Tina T-P said...

Wow - Glad that Dan is OK - L&I does come through occasionally - they sure saved our bacon when The Shepherd had his surgery a couple of years ago.

We are pretty much out of savings since he wasn't able to work much of Jan or Feb because of the weather. Sigh. T.

Woolly Bits said...

the best news is that Dan is alright again! but of course, bad things always come at the same time, don't they:( maybe it was a sign to not "crank up a gear" to pay back the mortgage faster, rather to stay where you are? it's probably better for Dan's health to not work away from home for that long, but to interrupt work time by home time, even though he works there, too, of course.

Bridget said...

What a to-do. I'm hoping all will work itself out in the end. You need a holiday after all that stress.

Doug Pitcher said...

It's amazing how easy it is to get blinded as to the real situation most of us are in financially. If I lost my job we would hurt but not as bad as we would have 3 years ago. That was when we decided to shed as much debt as we could/as fast as we could. We are now building a house without a mortgage on land we own. We've been building for a year now and will probably not completely finish for another couple of years. It's a slow process but if I lost my job we'd make due with what we have and live off what little we can make off our simple farm. Hopefully this approach is worth it although we sometimes feel like giving in (usually late at night while we are still working on the place) and taking out a mortgage so we can hire professionals to finish our place.

Glad Dan is OK and the food is still good.

Leigh said...

Renee, even better, workers comp has paid him at least part of his salary through to when he went back to his old job. We're actually a little better off now than before the fiasco began!

Michelle, amazing isn't it? I kept telling myself, "without faith it is impossible to please God" and left it to Him. It worked out better than we could have imagined. :)

Barb, that's great you've paid your mortgage off! I agree that taxes in that part of the country are outragious. We're fortunate to have low taxes and low cost of living here. Of course wages are low as well!

Amanda, thank you!

Mary, Dan reads the online truckers forums and it seems to be getting worse. I'm just thankful ours wasn't worse.

Martha, thank you. It is so true about finances these days. Seems the best thing is to learn to live with less.

Sue, I know you can relate!

Sue, thanks!

MJWC, faith and perspective make all the difference!

Tina, weather related jobs are the toughest! Hopefully things will perk up for you soon.

Bettina, we've thought the same thing! Our payment really isn't that bad, and manageable, so we're just going to chug along and make the best of what we've got.

Bridget, that would be great!

Doug good point about debt. If we had a lot of debt we'd be sunk because there wasn't enough money for more than basic bills. You are so smart to pay as you go.

jj said...

I don't think you have to be a doomer, prepper, or survivalist in order to exercise some basic common sense...and being prepared to handle everyday emergencies is (in my humble opinion) as common-sense as it gets...